Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year End Reflection: Top Ten Albums of Two Thousand 10

List are retarded... I get it. But there seems to be something in our nature that makes us list everything and anything. Junior High girls list their best friends, college girls list the best sororities, and yuppy girls list their bridesmaids.

Men across American spend countless hours listing running backs for fantasy draft, high school boys list the hottest teachers, and meatheads list who has the largest... well... affliction collection.

List are part of the American fabric. Tea partiers order their lists based on what Sarah Palin says and I list my life ambitions based on what Kenny Powers said. Seriously.

But do lists really matter? I mean Kanye's new album was automatically ranked #1 on all major music websites. I think it is a great album but damn! Can we lay off his sack for a minute. I would rank College Drop Out as probable #3 on my all time greatest hip hop albums list.

Whether or not lists matter, they do help us organize and reflect on our thoughts. Reflexivity creates self-consciousness and enables us to order our mind, self, and operate within society.

“Reflection or reflective behavior arises only under the conditions of self-consciousness, and makes possible the purposive control and organization by the individual organisms of its conduct, with reference to its social and physical environment, i.e., with reference to the various social and physical situations in which it becomes involved and to which it reacts.” (Mead 1934, 91)

Knowledge of self matters, lists help us reflect, and reflection leads to knowledge of self... Sooooo - Lists do matter. 

Before napster free'd music and punished the music industry for selling bull shit, I loved going through new friends CD collections. Music is a reflection of who you are - especially when you spend money on it. You can still learn important things about your friends by scrolling through their IPod or reading their favorite artists section on Facebook - but nothing is invested in this music. What matter is what people truly value... what do they spend money on. All that being said - taste in music reflects the individual, and by listing your favorite albums of the year, you are reflecting on a small part of who you are.

The list was excruciating. I left out LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, The apples in Stereo, the XX, Big Boi, Eminem, Yeasayer, Senses Fail, Two Door Cinema, Luda, and many more albums that I loved. In the end I had to stick with the albums that stuck with me, that I love every song, that push some sort of limits, or that are just full of good catchy pop songs. So here it is - 

My reflection on myself... 

The WUW? Top Ten Albums of 2010:

1. Broken Bells - Broken Bells
Danger Mouse is the Man!
2. The Black Keys - Brothers
Have yet to hear a Black Keys song I haven't loved
3. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I resisted jumping on 'Ye's bandwagon but this album is truly great.
4. Arcade Fire - Suburbs
This album should be #1 but you know how that goes... sometimes life just isn't fair
5. The National - High Violet
I feel cheesy putting this on my list and avoided listening to it until 4 months ago.
But it is a great album!
6. Blakroc - Blakroc
The most slept on album of the year.
The Black Keys lay down blues tracks while Mos Def, ODB, Jim Jones, and
a number of dope MC's get busy
7. Midlake - The Courage of Others
A lot of hype built up to the this release. At first I thought it
was boring, but after the 20th listen
I realized how great it was.
8. The Roots - How I Got Over
Best hip hop band in the history of music
9. Neon Trees - Habits
Every song is a pop hit.
10. Sleigh Bells - Treats
I remember when I first heard this album on NPR.
I immediately went out and purchased the Vinyl.
Probably the most exciting album of the year.
List List List ... Happy New Year... and Have a great 2011,

Carlitta Durand - Nostalgic Nights

Introducing Carlitta Durand

If you follow music blogs, you understand the difference between those that introduce you to life changing artists and those that give you a few gems among many overhyped underdeveloped artists. is one of those sights that always delivers artists that approach their music from a different angle than anything else you've heard.

I downloaded Carlitta Durand's new album yesterday and haven't stop spinning. Durand combines elements of jazz and r&b to create a sound somewhere between Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys but not really like either of the two legends.

Track 8 stands out because of the jazzy instrumental, hard drums, dope female rhymes, and layered vocals.

Head on over to okayplayer and download this album... which has probably entered into my Top Ten of 2010.

Download the album here
and then go visit:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Asher Roth & Nottz Rawl - Rawth EP

Asher Roth Finally Gets it Right

Do not be dissuaded by Asher's horrible radio releases... As much as I want to not like this guy - every unofficial release he drops is MONEY! The Rawth EP is one of the best mixtapes of the year (meaning I need to reformulate my Top 10 Mixtapes of 2010). 

If your only experience with the white suburbanite MC is from his radio release "I Love College," you are justified in believing this guy is a joke. But... if you stop with that, you may miss out on some of the best underground hip hop in the game. Not close to the best - but one of the best.

Produced by Nottz Raw, a Virginia native who has produced tracks for Snoop, Biggie, Busta, and Kanye, this EP pushes the boundaries of hip hop but stays grounded in the East Coast with hard snares, creative sampling, and a good 'ol boom bap sound.

So do yourself a favor and download the 8 track EP. RAWTH EP Click to Download

Favorite: Track 6 "Comin & Goin Ft. Rhymefest" 

Spotted at:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Free Market Mythology

With the economy in the shitter, our culture is resting on the old, wobbly crutches of empty phrases such as: capitalism, democracy, founding fathers, free-market, and socialism. The good folks at WhatUpWally? have decided that it is time to address some of these words and reveal them for what they are: meaningless.

George Orwell (yes the guy who wrote 1984) said it best:
"…the word Fascist has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.' The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meaning which cannot be reconciled with one another." (Orwell 1946, Politics and the English Language)

The three words we would like to focus on are capitalism, socialism, and the free-market. The myriad of meanings placed on these words are all reduced to meaning good or bad.

For instance, when your well meaning, George Bush loving friend says "Obama is a socialist;" all he is really saying is: socialism = bad, Obama = socialist, Obama = bad.

Another example, when your trust-fund-friend declares "Reagan is a champion of free market capitalism;" she could use less words and just say Reagan is good. (WUW? will not comment that of course she thinks the free market is good – she has a trust fund! Duh!)

The point is, these words are used as if they have some concrete meaning but in reality, they are difficult ways to describe something as good or bad.

"All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia." (Orwell 1946, 8)

Let's make this short and sweet: even economists know that there is no such thing as a pure free market. Economists build "clean models" in a attempt to isolate variable of human behavior. Human behavior is not clean and humans operate the economy. 
Adam Smith's basic idea was that individuals are motivated solely by economic self-interest and therefore make rational decision. As individual buyers and sellers pursue self-interest market prices move towards equilibrium (the invisible hand). This idea rest on 7 basic assumptions:
  1. Rational Action 
  2. Perfect Information 
  3. Zero Transaction Costs 
  4. Anonymous Exchange 
  5. History does not factor into exchange decisions 
  6. Institutions do not influence decisions 
  7. Individuals can rank order their preferences
The first assumption of neoclassical economics is that individuals are motivated to make rational decisions based solely on economic self-interest. Buyers and sellers attempt to maximize utility and minimize costs. Sellers attempt to maximize the price of their goods while minimizing their costs. As they compete against other sellers in the market, buyers compare the goods, find the product with the highest utility value and lowest cost, and make their final purchase decision on price alone. Buyers and sellers, pursuing self-interest, push the market to equilibrium where the price of goods equals utility value. The assumption of rational action is dependent on six other assumptions. "Economic man" makes rational decisions because it is assumed that he has perfect information, no transaction cost, and anonymous exchange. Economic man is also assumed to make decisions without consideration of the past and is not influenced by institutions. Lastly, economic man makes rational decisions because he has his preferences precisely rank ordered and his preferences are formed outside of the market.

These seven assumptions create a clean model for an ideal, free-market, self-regulating economy but even the founders of neoclassical economics were aware that the assumptions were not realistic.

Gary Becker, Nobel Prize winning Economist:

"… Along with others, I have tried to pry economists away from narrow assumptions about self-interest. Behavior is driven by a much richer set of values and preferences." (Becker 1993, 385)

I love this quote from Fred Block:

"… actual economies represent an extremely complex mix of microeconomic choices, social regulation, and state action. Given the complexity of these arrangements, the kinds of sweeping claims that are made by both defenders and critics of the market appear intellectually suspect. The idea that allowing greater market freedom will invariably increase economic efficiency is a purely ideological one." (Block 1990)

Yoram Ben-Porath:

"Economics deals with agents who are stripped of identity. Faceless buyers and sellers, households and firms that grind out decision rules from their objective functions (utility, profits), meet in the market place for an instant to exchange standardized goods at equilibrium prices." (Ben-Porath 1980, 4)

Going back to my favorite, pre-24 hour news channel, political commentator, George Orwell, the way we think changes the way we speak but the way we speak can also change the way we think. It is crucial that we stop using words that no longer have definite meaning because they corrupt the way we view the world. Socialism and Capitalism are neither good nor bad. They are only philosophy. They are theories about human behavior and how humans might behave in better ways.

"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better." (Orwell 1946, 8)

We devalue our language and our culture by employing empty phrases as political rhetoric. It is time that we start analyzing our thoughts and our words; stop living in the black and white world of good and bad; and refuse to let political leaders and commentators manipulate our society with fear inducing, empty words and phrases.

WUW? would like to leave you with one last quote before signing off for the Christmas break:

"One of the greatest threats to the continuing affirmation and evolution of a culture of civil liberties in the United States is the modern day McCarthy's of the media whose often irresponsible rants appeal to the worst rather than the best in the American people. The Bill O'Reillys, Rush Limbaughs, and Ann Coulters of the current generation debase public discourse and endanger democratic values. That they have a right to speak their piece goes without saying. The challenge for Americans is to be sufficiently thoughtful, informed, and discerning to separate the wheat from the chaff."

Geoffrey Stone - War and Liberty: An American Dilemma: 1790 to the Present (2007, 174)

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Now go shopping,


The Black Keys Make Love to Big Boi

The Black Keys and Big Boi? It really is Christmas!!

Spotted at

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The WhatUpWally? Top Ten Mustache's of All Time

So....... Who Wants a Mustache Ride??

In today's Live From Facebook episode, What Up Wally? would like to reflect on the societal importance of the mustache. Unlike many BookFace posts, the mustache always seems to elicit strong emotions from the populace. From envy to creepy, the mustache represents different meanings for different people. Truly a modern marvel, the mustache has not been celebrated for its sex appeal, manliness, versatility, or for it's sheer cool factor.
Today that changes with the official:

WhatUpWally? Top Ten Mustache's of All Time

1. Tom Selleck- The Utlimate Mustache Sex Machine
2. That Guy from Dazed and Confused: That's what I like about College Station - I keep gettin older and the girls stay the same age!

Music Musts... BK MC Talib Kweli

My favorite MC of all time - Talib Kweli. Download his new single here: : How You Love Me

I remember when I picked up Quality at a Walmart in Tennessee... I was driving back to College Station from Cincinnati. I put it in my 6 disc changer (the one that you put in the trunk of the car) with Jurassic 5 - Quality Control and the Roots Phrenology. I listened to Kweli's album last and kept in in rotation for the next year. Eventually I picked up Black Star and Reflection Eternal and purchased almost everything Rawkus Records (RIP) put out.

My favorite album? Toss up between Liberation (produced by Madlib) or the Right About Now Mixtape... 

Gutter Rainbows drops January 25th! Is now available!

"If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli" Jay-Z Moment of Clarity

Spotted at

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Apple Juice Kid - Frank Sinatra Remixed

 Introducing the Apple Juice Kid

Apple Juice Kid is one of the best producers in music right now.
His Miles Remixed and Louis Armstrong Remixed albums are unparalleled.


Also check out his FreeBass 808 Project:

Live from Facebook!

What Up Wally is proud to announce the Live From Facebook weekly updates.

What is Live From Facebook?

LFF will chronicle, ridicule, analyze, and interpret postings, conversations, pictures, and status updates that appear on the Book daily. With a strong emphasis on the Neoconservative and fundamental Christian worldview, WUW will employ satire in an attempt to illuminate the hypocritical and anti-intellectual rhetoric extending from the ideology of the extreme right.

Lest you think LFF is serious, WUW will also highlight trends, music specials, and other interesting happenings occurring daily on the BookFace.


Live from Facebook! Episode 1: Morality, Judgement and Kanye West
Kanye West is MTV News' Man of the Year for 2010! Undeniable music, brilliant tweets and one ambitious short film put 'Ye back on top in 2010.

21 hours ago · · · · Share

    • and blatant disregard for one Taylor Swifts" feelings.
      Nice job MTV. Way to celebrate decisions made
      in haste (and while hammered).
In our first episode of LFF, we here at What Up Wally? would like to celebrate MTV's man of the year - Kanye West! From a broken star to a risen hero. 'Yeezy has not shy'd away from his mistakes or made excuses for his behavior. Contrarily, after the embarrassing fiasco at the MTV awards, he canceled a lucrative tour, disappeared from the public, and reemerged with everyone's top album of 2010.

    While having a toast for the "douche bags," 'Ye once again pushed his creative limits, enlisted an all star cast of MC's, released half the album for free, and proved to us once again that hip-hop music is an art form. Kanye's catalog is the most compelling argument that hip-hop music is music, and deserves the same respect of all other music forms.

    More than his music, 'Ye the man, is a public illustration of the individual within society. We are selfish, arrogant, depressed, successful, creative, religious, and amoral. We act hastily, disregard our best friends feelings, judge each other, stick up for our friends, lose loved ones, fall in and out of love, commit adultery, stay committed, say the right words, and do the wrong things.

     Kanye West reminds us all that we are human and if we look at Kanye through different lenses - we should be inspired. Yeezy went from the most despised celebrity in America the the most celebrated artist of 2010. He did this through hard work, remorse, introspection, shameless self-promotion, and in the end by believing in and being true to himself. 'Ye is a man that knows what he wants but also knows who he is. He is ashamed of his actions but refuses to let his mistakes keep him from pursuing perfection.

     So, as my good fried responded to my post with disgust that MTV could choose such a man as the man of the year, he expresses an inability to view himself as Kanye. Looking at the world through the moral lenses of the Christian worldview leads to these brash judgements about individual behavior and ignores the multiple dimensions of the personality. More importantly, by judging the actions of Kanye, the moralist, places himself above the rapper, and denies that he himself has never acted hastily and "while intoxicated."

    Maybe we should focus less on the "sin" of each other and look at the way that we overcome that "sin" and the character that is built from learning from our mistakes.

Sooooo.... Let's make a toast to the "Douche Bag," "ass holes," "scumbags," every one of them that we know!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Part 4: Why Does this Matter? The Case for Democratic Responsibility

The Troubling Conclusion about Assigning Blame
On June 8, 2004, less than two months after the photos were released, the Washington Post (Priest and Smith 2004) revealed the two memos, written by Gonzalez and Bybee. The revealing of the “torture memos,” showed that the Bush administration had implemented policies that legalized torture and denied the authority of the Geneva Conventions. The American public was then aware of the pictures as well as the torture policies set in place by the Bush administration. Six months after the torture memos were revealed, 50.4% of American citizens (31/50 states) voted to re-elect George W. Bush as President. The victory was not overwhelming but it could be read as approval, apathy, or ignorance towards the administrations violation of international law. “Some of the reports are available to the public through the Internet and in book form as well, but they do not seem to have had an impact on public opinion or the information media.” (Mestrovic 2007, 49)
Congress did pass the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which appeared to reverse the trend (Sadat 2007, 144). But, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 “codified many of the Bush administrations policies as a matter of federal law” (Sadat 2007,144). The act granted President Bush absolute authority to classify individuals as ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ denying them protection under the Geneva Conventions. The act also authorized coercive testimony, limited the federal courts authority to review detainee’s claims of wrongful detention (Smuelers and van Niekerk 2008, and Sadat 2007), and “as of this writing, strict adherence to the Geneva Conventions is not part of the discourse for fixing the damage to social relations caused by the abuse at Abu Ghraib.” (Mestrovic and Lorenzo 2008, 180) Also, in 2005, instead of being reprimanded by Congress or the American public, Alberto Gonzalez was promoted to Attorney General.
While the bad apple soldiers were being court-martialed, President Bush was being reelected, passing laws to legitimize his policies, and promoting on of two “torture memo” architects. This does not seem like justice but it does show that the administration was able to shift focus away from their illegal policies and systemic abuses throughout the military. Two of the ways they were able to do was the successfully argue that their policies were justified based through the moral, utility, and legal debates and by shifting all blame for detainee abuse on the bad apple soldiers. One explanation about why scapegoating works so well is summed up by Geoffrey Stone:
The most effective way to alleviate the public’s fears may be to demonstrate that their government is taking action, whether or not that action is likely otherwise to be effective. Sometimes this may calm the public, but the very fact that the government takes drastic action also affirms the legitimacy of the fear. (Stone 2007, 175)
How did the American people view the Abu Ghraib controversy? How did they interpret the policies implemented by the Bush Administration? How much did the public know or care about the detainee abuse or the administrations policies? I believe that these are important questions and if answered could help us better understand the power that public opinion has in shaping policy and how much power public policy has on shaping public opinion. I think it is important for the American citizenry to understand its responsibility as political actors in a democratic society because elected official are by nature responsive to the wants of voters and are likely to act (Stone 2007). But if voters respond in fear and react positively to decisive action regardless of the consequences, then they authorize their leaders to justify deviant means and therefore implicate themselves as complicit in criminal behavior. As Stone remarks “The preservation of liberty requires citizens to rise above their most basic instincts. This must be learned and relearned with each generation.” (Stone 2007, 173)
If Stone is correct, then we need to dedicate our attention to answering these questions about the morality, utility, and legality of torture. We need to hold our leaders accountable for their actions because if we don’t, we support policies like those of the Bush administration that create resistance to our nation as a whole.
Through the sliding of meanings in the words and concepts it uses, The United States has cast a wide net in depicting any resistance as insurgency and terrorism. On the other hand the Islamic world has cast a wide net in depicting all intentions by the United States as Negative. (Mestrovic 2007, 197)
When we support oppressive policy, we support the resistance to the United States.

Part 3: Bush and Matt Lauer Nov. 8, 2010 - the Unrepentant Torturer Justifies His Criminal Actions

Scapegoating the Bad Apples

Rumsfeld and Bush’s theory of an “exceptional, isolated” incident of “disgraceful conduct by a few American troops” has been proven incomplete, but Bush continues to assert that the bad apples were solely responsible for disgracing the military and staining “our good name.” Bush reasserted his theory in a recent interview with Matt Lauer on NBC, November 8, 2010:

LAUER: It was the spring of 2004 when you first learned that American soldiers operating as guards at a prison called Abu Ghraib had terribly mistreated prisoners. Can you just give me your first reaction, your first emotions when you heard the news?

BUSH: Sick to my stomach. Not only have they mistreated prisoners, they had disgraced the U.S. military and stained our good name. (Bush and Lauer 2010)

After reemphasizing the bad apple theory he commented on the high character of Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld:

BUSH: Yeah. I-- because I wasn't aware of the graphic nature of the pictures until later on. And some people in the White House expressed that (laughs) my view into the newspapers, which then caused Secretary Rumsfeld to come in and offer his resignation.

LAUER: Twice.

BUSH: Yeah, which speaks to his character.

LAUER: How would you rate that decision? To keep Rumsfeld in that position when he offered his resignation?

BUSH: I think it was the right decision to make. (Bush and Lauer 2010)

In 2002, Rumsfeld personally approved “coercive interrogation techniques, including inducing stress by use of detainee's fears (e.g. dogs), for Guantanamo. He jots on a memo, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?” (Lowrey 2009, 4) The interrogation techniques, approved on December 2, 2002, were implemented at Guantanamo Bay on April 16, 2003 and were introduced to LTG Ricardo Sanchez, commander of all military units in Iraq, in August of 2003 (Lowrey 2009, Schlesinger 2004, Mestrovic 2007). The migration of these policies, from Guantanamo to Iraq, created the environment in which the photographed abuses could exist. By continually framing the Abu Ghraib scandal as an isolated incident of a few soldiers, Bush keeps the focus off his policies and the systemic abuse of detainees throughout the military.

The bad apples remain the scapegoat for the Bush administration and they remain the only individuals to be held accountable for one outcome implementation of policies that violated international law. Amnesty International has since declared that “Bush’s interrogation paradigm constituted the most significant attack on international law in 50 years, adding that the United States had condoned ‘atrocious’ human rights violations, thereby diminishing its moral authority and setting a global example encouraging torture by other nations.” (Hamm 2007, 268) Still, there has been little attempt to hold the Bush administration accountable for what would usually be considered war crimes (Hamm 2007, 266). George Bush remains unrepentant about his decisions and maintains that the enhanced interrogation techniques were justified because they provided the military with information that prevented another attack on the United States (Bush and Lauer 2010).

Unrepentant Torture Authorizer

During the interview with Matt Lauer, Bush justified his authorization of waterboarding by arguing his case through three debates on torture – the moral, utility, and legal debates. These are the same arguments he used in 2006 when he urged, “For the sake of our security, Congress needs to act and update our laws to meet the threats of this new era, and I know they will.” (Bush 2006, 10) First, employing the moral argument, Bush claims that “using those techniques saved lives” thus waterboarding was justified (Bush and Lauer 2010) Second, Bush used the utility argument when he confirmed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded 183 times (Bush and Lauer 2010). This is similar to a 2006 speech, when he cited the waterboarding of Abu Zubahdah as the means to locate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Bush 2006). In the same speech he claimed that:

Another reason the terrorists have not succeeded is because our government has changed its policies and given our military, intelligence and law enforcement personnel the tools they need to fight this enemy and protect our people and preserve our freedoms. (Bush 2006, 1)

And that:

This intelligence -- this is intelligence that cannot be found any other place. And our security depends on getting this kind of information. To win the war on terror, we must be able to detain, question and, when appropriate, prosecute terrorists captured here in America and on the battlefields around the world. (Bush 2006, 2)

The Bush administration continues to argue their policies are justified even though they violated the Geneva Conventions. Their justification rest on the claim the war on terror is a new kind of war that rendered the Geneva Conventions obsolete. In 2001, Dick Cheney, while be interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” commented

We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” (Human Rights Watch 2005, 9)

Six months after Cheney’s comment, Bush issued his executive order “denying Taliban and al Qaeda detainees the protections afforded under the Geneva Conventions, saying that the United States needs new thinking in the law of war.” (Lowrey 2009, 2)

The third justification is legal and the “new thinking” and “new war” of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez, Jay Bybee, and George Bush is the basis of the argument. Bush describes why waterboarding is legal in the interview:

BUSH: We believe America's going to be attacked again. There's all kinds of intelligence comin' in. And-- and-- one of the high value al Qaeda operatives was Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the chief operating officer of al Qaeda… ordered the attack on 9/11. And they say, "He's got information." I said, "Find out what he knows.” And so I said to our team, "Are the techniques legal?" He says, "Yes, they are." And I said, "Use 'em."

LAUER: Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?

BUSH: Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I'm not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do. (Bush and Lauer 2010)

According Bush’s definition, what made his policy legal was that the Office of Legal Council (OLC) said it was legal. The administration built its legal case from the belief that a “new enemy” and a “new war” required interrogation techniques that did not fit within the “narrow limitations” of the Geneva Conventions. They wrote legal briefs and redefined terms to render Geneva obsolete. This justification of torture is what the 1985 UN Convention Against Torture was designed to prevent: “The torture convention also makes clear that ‘no exceptional circumstances…may be invoked as a justification of torture.’” (Hamm 2007, 265, 266)

Part 2: Scapegoating and Trickle Down Torture

The Bad Apples on Trial

The Attorneys of the court-martialed soldiers argued that the defendants should not be held responsible for the abuse of detainees because their actions stemmed from policies implemented by the Bush administration. Policies that migrated from Guantanamo and Afghanistan to the dysfunctional environment of Abu Ghraib, and created a new environment that normalized and commended abuse. This environment allowed and encouraged soldiers to commit the sadistic abuses like those captured in the pictures (Alkadry and Witt 2009, Smuelers and van Niekerk 2008). The defense’s expert witness Stjepan G. Mestrovic described the dynamics of the trial in his 2007 book, The Trials of Abu Ghraib: An Expert Witness Account of Shame and Honor:

The defense teams tried, and failed, to get high-ranking officers, and even the secretary of defense to testify. For the most part, the defense teams were putting the Army on trial… the government seemed guilty, in part for the unlawful policies and chaos that were established at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, yet the government was going through the rituals of justice and assigning blame onto its lowest-ranking soldiers. (Mestrovic 2007, 18)

Investigations conducted by the government, The International Red Cross, and Human Rights Watch confirmed the defense’s arguments about the dysfunctional environment. However, the trials were not about determining guilt or innocence, rather they were:

About defending the positive image of the U.S Army against the seven rotten apples who were depicted as having brought shame and dishonor to the army… The trials were not about the Iraqi prisoners; not about violations of the Geneva Conventions; not about policies that emanated from the White House and trickled down the chain of command; not about the abuse that was committed… and not about Gitmoization, which seems to be the primary source of the social toxins that poisoned Abu Ghraib. (Mestrovic 2007, 8)

The Taguba (2004) Schlesinger (2004), Fay (2004), and Human Rights Watch Report (2005), all acknowledged how the dysfunctional environment created unfavorable conditions, which allowed sadistic behaviors to happen. The Schlesinger and Fay reports do not accept the dysfunctional environment excuse as acceptable.

Based on the Taguba and Jones/Fay investigations, ‘setting favorable conditions’ had some basis in fact at Abu Ghraib, but it was also used as an excuse for abusive behavior toward detainees. (Schlesinger 2004, 77)

The MPs being investigated claim their actions came at the direction of MI. Although self- serving, these claims do have some basis in fact. The climate created at Abu Ghraib provided the opportunity for such abuse to occur and to continue undiscovered by higher authority for a long period of time. (Fay 2004, 71)

Mestrovic asks, if the environment is not an applicable excuse, then ”who or what is responsible for introducing the unlawful climate and failing to restore it to a lawful, normative state?” (Mestrovic 2007, 57)

Who is to Blame? Trickle Down Torture

Four themes emerge from the numerous reports and articles about Abu Ghraib: sadistic abuse did occur by a group of individuals (“bad apples” (Mestrovic 2007)) and was captured in the revealed photographs; abuse was not unique or limited to the individuals or Abu Ghraib; the dysfunctional nature of Abu Ghraib created an environment where such abuse could occur; and policies implemented by the Bush administration trickled down the chain of command and contributed to the dysfunctional environment at Abu Ghraib. The Fay Report does not relieve the “bad apples” of responsibility but does document a number of dysfunctions that led to abuse at Abu Ghraib including the photographed abuse.

The environment created at Abu Graib contributed to the occurrence of such abuse and the fact that it remained undiscovered by higher authority for a long period of time. What started as nakedness and humiliation… carried over into sexual and physical assaults by a small group of morally corrupt and unsupervised soldiers and civilians. (Fay 2004, 71)

First, The Fay Report, Schlesinger Report, and Human Rights Watch Report all acknowledge the group of individuals photographed at Abu Ghraib committed sadistic abuse. I believe the soldiers should be punished for their actions. Punishment is necessary in order to serve justice, repair the military’s image, and establish legitimacy in the international community. The problem did not start with the individuals in the pictures. The photographs from Abu Ghraib represented the dysfunctional atmosphere of the prison and not photographed abuses of other soldiers at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and Afghanistan. Ultimately, the photographs and abuses represent legal justifications of the Bush administration to employ torture to gain information in the war on terror. These three issues disprove President Bush’s assertion that the scandal at Abu Ghraib was just “disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values,” (Human Rights Watch 2005, 8) The detainees and the soldiers were victims of a poisoned environment partly causesd by Bush’s declaration that the Geneva Conventions were obsolete.

The second theme that emerged is that detainee abuse was not unique to the bad apples or Abu Ghraib prison. Contradicting public statements by Bush and Rumsfeld, the methods of abuse did not originate at Abu Ghraib or with the soldiers. The Fay Report listed 44 incidents of abuse committed at Abu Ghraib by the rotten apples, MPs, MIs, CIA, and an Army Officer and Captain (Fay 2004, 75-83). Additionally, Fay reported that between July 25th, 2003 and February 6th, 2004, 27 military interrogators (not bad apples) “requested, encouraged, condoned, or solicited MP personnel to abuse detainees; participated in detainee abuse or; Violated established interrogation procedures and applicable laws and regulations as a preparation for interrogation operations at Abu Ghraib.” (Fay 2004, 109)

Similar cases of abuse and interrogation by CIA, MI, and other government agencies (OGA) “were part of a process deployedat Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and then… at Guantanamo, and finally against hundred of innocent Iraqi’s at Abu Ghraib and other military bases across Iraq.” (Hamm 2007, 265)

The Fay, Schlesinger, and Human Rights Watch Reports each recognize the photographed abuse as inexcusable, but they also report abuses and deaths of detainees at the hands of others at Abu Ghraib, not photographed. The 2005 Human Rights Watch Report noted the ordinariness of the abuse:

While some of the acts portrayed in the pictures may be attributed to individual or group sadism, the widening record reveals that the only truly exceptional aspect of the horrors at Abu Ghraib was that they were photographed. (Human Rights Watch 2005, 8)

Schlesinger reported the photographed abuse was an “aberration” caused by “poor leadership” and “lack of oversight.” (Schlesinger 2004, 77)

The dysfunctional environment of Abu Ghraib is the third theme. The Fay report cites twelve endemic problems including confusion about who was in charge, the difference between approved and abusive activities, and about which norms to follow. The report also lists the “Gitmoization” and “Afghanistanization” of the prison, unauthorized use of dogs, insufficient training, lack of social integration between MI and MP units, rapid changes of interrogation policies, intense pressure to obtain intelligence, an unhealthy mystique, failure of self-correcting mechanisms, and cultural insensitivity (Mestrovic 2007, 58-67). Many described the prisons as “’hell on earth,’ ‘the nastiest place on earth,’ ‘Bizzaro World,’ ‘not like a normal prison,’ and other emotionally laden phrases.” (Mestrovic 2007, 188)

The Fay report’s issues reveal three major breakdowns - poor leadership, confusion of roles, and confusion about the application of the Geneva Conventions. First, the leadership breakdown was exemplified by the fact that the Joint Interrogation Debriefing Center (JIDC) was made up of six different units without normal command (Schlesinger 2004). The Commanders improperly trained and supervised their command. They lacked proper experience and failed to “establish the basic standards and accountability that might have served to prevent the abusive behaviors that occurred.” (Schlesinger 2004, 67-68) The next major break down was confusion about roles. “MI and MP personnel at Abu Ghraib had little knowledge of each other's missions, roles and responsibilities in the conduct of detainee/interrogation operations. As a result, some ‘lanes in the road’ were worked out ‘on the fly.’ Other relationships were never fully defined and contributed to the confused operational environment.” (Fay 2004, 115) The last break down was confusion about who was protected under the Geneva Conventions. Senior leadership and command knew that the Geneva Conventions did not bind Operation Enduring Freedom but did bind Operation Iraqi Freedom (Schlesinger 2004). The differentiation was lost in the field and policies designed for Guantanamo and Afghanistan were implemented in Iraq:

The message in the field, or the assumptions made in the field, at times lost sight of this underpinning. Personnel familiar with the law of war determinations for OEF in Afghanistan tended to factor those determinations into their decision-making for military actions in Iraq. Law of war policy and decisions germane to OEF migrated, often quite innocently, into decision matrices for OIF. We noted earlier the migration of interrogation techniques from Afghanistan to Iraq. Those interrogation techniques were authorized only for OEF. More important, their authorization in Afghanistan and Guantanamo was possible only because the President had determined that individuals subjected to these interrogation techniques fell outside the strict protections of the Geneva Conventions. (Schlesinger 2004, 82)

The Fay Report recommended that, “DOD should improve training provided to all personnel in Geneva Conventions, detainee operations, and the responsibilities of reporting detainee abuse.” (Fay 2004, 115) The problem with that recommendation was that the DOD helped render the Geneva Conventions obsolete.

Finally, the dysfunction at Abu Ghraib was an extension of the Bush administrations determination that the Geneva Conventions were obsolete and the redefinition of what constitutes torture. The Office of Legal Council drafted two memos that became the legal justification for the administration’s policies. The Gonzalez Memo (2002) that rendered the Geneva Conventions obsolete for enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan and detained at Guantanamo Bay. The Bybee Memo (2002) redefined torture. President Bush, issued an executive order on February 7, 2002, stating:

I accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice and determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world because, among other reasons al Qaeda is not a High Contracting Party to Geneva. (Bush 2002)

The war paradigm began to change occurred before Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez’s 2002 memorandum determined that “the new paradigm of the war on terror ‘renders obsolete’ the ‘strict limitations’ on questioning of enemy prisoners’ required by the Geneva Conventions.” (Smuelers and van Niekerk 2008, 335) Five days after the 9/11 attacks, Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press and proclaimed:

We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective. (Human Rights Watch 2005, 9)

One month after President Bush’s executive order, the defense department determined that the “President’s authority to ‘manage a military campaign’ overrode any statutory or treaty prohibitions against torture,’” (Hersh 2004b, 17) and on July 26, 2002 Attorney General John Ashcroft concluded that “waterboarding is lawful, allowing the CIA to go ahead and use the technique on Zubayda.” (Lowrey 2009, 3) A few days later, August 1, 2002, The Bybee Memo redefined torture by saying it ‘”must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” (Bellamy 2006, 127) Bybee’s definition contradicted the 1985 UN Convention Against Torture and Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war. The UN convention defines torture as “’any act by which sever pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession.’” (Hamm 2007, 265) Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits “‘violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.’ Grave breaches of these international standards are called war crimes.” (Hamm 2007, 266)

Despite these revelations and findings, the United States has not engaged in a serious process of accountability. Officials have denounced the most egregious abuses, rhetorically reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to uphold the law and respect human rights, and belatedly opened a number of prosecutions for crimes committed against detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq. To date, however, with the exception of one major personally implicated in abuse, only low-ranking soldiers — privates and sergeants — have been called to account. (Human Rights Watch 2005, 1, emphasis added)

Only eleven soldiers from Abu Ghraib were court-martialed and ten were convicted: six MPs (appeared in picture, original bad apples), two MIs, and two dog handlers. If government reports, journalists, academics, and human rights organizations have documented that detainee abuse was not isolated to just the photographed bad apples but pervasive throughout Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay; then why were only eleven soldiers court-martialed? Why, after government reports determined the severity of dysfunction at Abu Ghraib was only eleven soldiers court-martialed? Why, when the Bush administration, violated international laws, in ways that would normally be considered war crimes, has there not been any repercussions for the administration or any other senior official? Mestrovic and Lorenzo approached these questions when they stated:

The discourse on this explosive subject avoids completely the subject of putting on trial Americans who are high in the chain of command and who should have known and should have taken steps to prevent the abuse even if they did not order it. (Mestrovic and Lorenzo 2008, 191)

I believe that further convictions were not pursued because the Bush administration effectively scapegoated the bad apple soldiers and justified administration policies by satisfying three debates about torture – the moral, utility, and legal debates.

When society undergoes suffering, it feels the need to find someone whom it can hold responsible for its sickness, on whom it can avenge its misfortunes: and those against whom opinion already discriminates naturally designated for this role. Those are the pariahs who serve as expiatory victims.’(Durkheim quoted in Mestrovic and Lorenzo 2008, 203)